Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Remarks About Colonial Games

Jack Scruby's commentaries about planning and playing Colonial historical miniatures games were bedrock foundational for me. Some of this is synthesized below.


Determining the proper ratio of Natives to Imperials is not easy. I don't think there is a specific formula unless TSATF with its twenty plus years of experience has one. Still such a formula will depend on rules weapons and morale, the amount of firearms on both sides and scenario dynamics too. Interesting variables.

It is not as easy as a SYW game where we might simply ask. Jim, please bring 500 Prussian musketeers and 100 heavy cavalry and Randy please bring the same. In a Colonial game the native side usually will have fewer firearms and different morale dynamics. It is at this point we try to fathom how much of each type of combatant to bring onto the tabletop.

In general:

A mostly melee armed native force could outnumber Imperials by 1.5:1, 2:1, 2.5:1 or even - gulp - 3:1.

A mostly musket/rifle armed native force could outnumber Imperials by 1.25:1 or 1.5:1, or a little more.

The bottom line is: All we can do is ponder the above and guess. I don't think there is a bull's eye to hit the perfect ratio. I'm happy with that.


Players are usually, logically and hopefully (?) more nervous in Colonial games. This is a different and necessary form of fun game tension. It is unique and properly so. Indeed this is a singular difference offered by Colonial gaming. It needs to be there.

It boils down to players on both sides thinking the other Army is way too numerous or powerful. This happened in August 2011. Readers may want to revisit that game here:

For a couple of turns several players of both sides understandably thought the opposing force was too powerful or too numerous. As I listened, I politely said something like - carry on - no changes - hang in there - wait and see. As the scenario designer I silently thought - good!

Some will complain. Some will lobby for changes. Some on both sides genuinely believe they will be utterly defeated. Not usually though. I take the position they ought to be nervous this way. Typically I usually stick to my guns and don't change a thing and at the end players happily chat about beating long odds and what might have happened - on both sides - if only....

Lest readers think I have this figured out perfectly, no I do not but the above may prove helpful for some.

Another topic is how to command Imperial and native forces. It's trickier than in a horse and musket game. Plus the native force must be able to move great distances quickly.

"Colonel, they're com'n. Thousands of 'em."
"Aye. Stand to and load."

There's nowhere to go and nothing to do but stand your ground and enjoy this different and exiting type of historical miniatures game experience. Your remarks are entirely welcome below.


ColCampbell50 said...

We've had much the same experiences playing TSATF these many years. I can't recall how many times our plucky British player(s) have been swamped by Brother Zulu.


chuck said...

I think the numbers dont matter as much as do the victory conditions of both sides. Both sides should have clear cut, achievable victory conditions.

In a game with a set number of turns, the British objective could be to hold out for (X) number of turns. You could have a recycling horde of natives to keep the pressure on.

Another scenario could be for the natives to give the British a black eye and achive a minor victory by causing 25% British casulties and a major victory with 50% British casulties. In this case I would go with a 3:1 ratio and give the British a chance to drive off the natives once they hit a breakpoint.

A J said...

I've played many a game in the Colonial era, and few have ever been the same. There have been times when Tommy Atkins marched all the way to the objective and back, yet saw nary a soul. There have been times when the doughty British column had but stepped out from their defences, only to be jumped by thousands of hostiles.

It's all part of the charm and, as you say, the uncertainty of it all that makes the period so appealing.

Larry Stehle said...

Victory conditions and sometimes luck. I have run a couple of TS&TF games where the Afghans couldn't hit the side of a barn and couldn't make almost any other roll on a bet. And had the reverse happen as well.